The Demand for Immigration to the United States1

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This paper examines trends and cross-national variation in the active demand for immigration to the United States in the period of 1984–1993, using data from the Visa Office and various other sources. The analysis is restricted to legal immigration in numerically limited categories. The results show that the total number of active immigrant visa applicants steadily increased in the aggregate and in each of the preference categories. Moreover, the active demand for immigration was highly skewed, with the majority of applications coming from a dozen countries: Mexico, the Philippines, India, mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Hong Kong, and Pakistan. Most of these highly-backlogged countries displayed a significant increase in the growth rate of demand for immigration. The paper also shows a substantial cross-national variation in the active demand for immigration and explores its structural determinants. The regression results indicate that the level of economic development in sending countries and U.S. economic and cultural relations with sending countries play important roles in the determination process. Policy implications of the findings are also discussed.

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